Predicting monthly precipitation along coastal Ecuador: ENSO and transfer function models

Lelys B. de Guenni, Mariangel García, Ángel G. Muñoz, José L. Santos, Alexandra Cedeño, Carlos Perugachi, José Castillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well known that El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) modifies precipitation patterns in several parts of the world. One of the most impacted areas is the western coast of South America, where Ecuador is located. El Niño events that occurred in 1982–1983, 1987–1988, 1991–1992, and 1997–1998 produced important positive rainfall anomalies in the coastal zone of Ecuador, bringing considerable damage to livelihoods, agriculture, and infrastructure. Operational climate forecasts in the region provide only seasonal scale (e.g., 3-month averages) information, but during ENSO events it is key for decision-makers to use reliable sub-seasonal scale forecasts, which at the present time are still non-existent in most parts of the world. This study analyzes the potential predictability of coastal Ecuador rainfall at monthly scale. Instead of the discrete approach that considers training models using only particular seasons, continuous (i.e., all available months are used) transfer function models are built using standard ENSO indices to explore rainfall forecast skill along the Ecuadorian coast and Galápagos Islands. The modeling approach considers a large-scale contribution, represented by the role of a sea-surface temperature index, and a local-scale contribution represented here via the use of previous precipitation observed in the same station. The study found that the Niño3 index is the best ENSO predictor of monthly coastal rainfall, with a lagged response varying from 0 months (simultaneous) for Galápagos up to 3 months for the continental locations considered. Model validation indicates that the skill is similar to the one obtained using principal component regression models for the same kind of experiments. It is suggested that the proposed approach could provide skillful rainfall forecasts at monthly scale for up to a few months in advance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1073
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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